Book Review: Readings
Thirty years, 64 narrators, and 165 stories
Reviewed by Terry Ornelas Woodroffe, Fri., Sept. 28, 2007
Brujerías: Stories of Witchcraft and the Supernatural in the American Southwest and Beyondby Nasario García
Texas Tech University Press, 384 pp., $34.95
Storytelling always has carried important lessons, not only of familial and tribal history but of fantasy and superstition. These stories often were meant to be more than campfire folktales. As bad luck would befall the wrongdoer in the story, the moral would be one of "harm none, else it should happen to you." Children disobeying parents, men drinking too much, women using trickery to trap their love: all fodder for sudden and unexplainable misfortunes and death. Grandparents would pass on their stories, and the lessons would morph a little with each new generation. When the age of modern television brought more graphic and visual lessons, the need for such storytelling faded into obscurity, and sadly, many of these folktales have been lost along the way. To gather a compendium of retelling by the final generations of these storytellers would take an amazing overhaul of interviews, documentation, and the ability to grasp fully the nuance of the translations.
Thirty years, 64 narrators, and 165 stories later, Nasario García did just that. Brujerías: Stories of Witchcraft and the Supernatural in the American Southwest and Beyond has gone far past the extra mile in this compendium of Hispanic folklore. Arranged in categories from witches to ghosts and everything eerie in between, each English chapter is followed by one in Spanish. La Llorona, el chupacabra, and the evil eye are included, of course, but so are lesser-spoken-of experiences with fever-curing eggs, curanderas (folk healers), and owls causing mischief in the night. One well-known Texas tale of a school-bus accident on railroad tracks, talcum powder and little ghostly handprints, gave chills upon reading it much the same as the first time hearing it as a child.
The familiarity of these stories, brought together in such a scholarly yet accessible fashion, carries with it the chance to revive the oral traditions of lesson-learning to a new generation and the opportunity to reminisce with our older ones. Nothing brings people together quite like an old ghost story, and this anthology is rich with spooky history.